They say, “don’t settle for half of anything.”
India’s badminton sensation and the flag bearer at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, PV Sindhu has experienced an upward trajectory in the last two years. However, she has not managed to fill her glass full. There have been several moments of joys but the lows have also persisted, frustrating the player as well as the nation. When she lost the singles final to Carolina Marin at the Rio Olympics 2016, she was acknowledged for her effort and since she was the first Indian women to bring home a silver Olympic medal, her flaws were overshadowed by the pride and delight an entire nation felt watching her stand on the podium.
From the start of 2016 to now, Sindhu has played 11 singles finals, winning five and losing six. In 2016, she only got into the limelight at the Rio Games. Prior to that, she won the Malaysia Masters and post Rio, she won in China and lost the Hong Kong final. She embarked her journey in 2017 by triumphing in the Syed Modi International Badminton Championship. She followed that by a trophy at the India Open; the win there was sweet because she defeated Carolina, the same player who defeated Sindhu in the gold medal match at Rio in 2016. Sindhu then lost the final of BWF World Championship before she won the Korean Open and lost the Hong Kong final for the second year in a row.
Sindhu, who turned pro in 2009, took almost three years to bag her maiden international title in badminton. The Indonesia International was her first title and since then, the Hyderabadi played has added another nine to her account. Without the likes of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians, and Danes, considering Sindhu’s potential and form off late, the road to the final should be a cakewalk for her at Gold Coast.
The Indian badminton team has been placed in Group A with Pakistan, Scotland and Sri Lanka. Pakistan has sent two players for the women’s singles event – Palwasha Bashir and Mahoor Shahzad – and Sindhu has never faced them yet. Meanwhile, out of Sri Lanka’s three candidates, Sindhu has played against Thilini Hendahewa. The two faced each other at the previous edition of Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where Sindhu had easily defeated the Sri Lankan. Although the players from Sri Lanka and Pakistan are not ranked highly, they would still have a psychological edge for being a new challenge to Sindhu, someone who would be under an immense pressure of the expectations from an entire country of India.
Talking of the real threat to Sindhu – Kirsty Gilmour – the only women’s player from Scotland who will be playing the women’s singles event. They have played each other twice in the past and the head to head between them is 1-1. Moreover, Kirsty had reached the final at Glasgow in 2014 but had lost. She had the silver medal and Sindhu bronze. There are two more players who could spoil Sindhu’s party at the upcoming Commonwealth Games – her teammate, Sania Nehwal and last time’s gold medallist Michelle Li.
Rejuvenated and former World No. 1 Saina leads 2-1 in head to head against her Sindhu. The two met earlier this year at Indonesia’s quarter-final where Saina defeated Sindhu in straight sets. Saina, who is also an Olympic medallist, has taken a back seat in popularity among the badminton fans in India because of Sindhu’s sudden growth in the sport. Hence, she will have a point to prove as well and that could lead to one of the best matches if these two face each other in the 2018 CWG.
Although Michelle Li trails Sindhu 2-4 in the head-to-head, the Canadian had defeated Sindhu twice at the CWG 2014 at Glasgow – singles and mixed team events. The last time these two locked horns was during the Rio Olympics in 2016. Sindhu lost the opening game by 19-21 before she zoomed past the World No. 17 with a win in the next two games, 21-15 and 21-17.
On paper, Sindhu’s victory seems to be written all over at the Gold Coast Games. Her best-ever performance in the prestigious All England tournament came earlier this year. Though she lost in the semi-final, that tournament certainly would have given her a lot of confidence going into the CWG 2018. And then there are black clouds hovering over her for losing a final after another. In the last few months, she has reached three finals and lost all the three. It is high time, India’s current best shuttler soon got rid of this habit of hers.
When Sindhu will lead the Indian contingent in the opening ceremony of the CWG 2018, she will not only be the flag bearer but also a hope of an entire nation – if India has to pick one player as their sure shot contender of a medal – it is Pusarla Venkata Sindhu!